Short Essay: On Charity


By Dave Hood

The other day, on a sunny, yet cool autumn afternoon in the city, I’m walking from my chevy to the front door of the grocery store. Next to the entrance, I catch sight of a young man sitting in a wheel chair, both legs amputated, cup in hand. He was grim faced, humble, out of luck. Two other people in front of me, glance at him, carry on into the grocery store. As I pass, he asks, “Do you have any spare change?” I said,”No. I’ll give you my change after shopping. All I have is a twenty.”

Then I entered through the front doors and began to shop, feeling guilty about not assisting this man in need. Raised as a Christian, I learned that it was my duty to help others who are suffering. As I pushed the cart down the aisles, adding cereal, milk, pop, a bag of chips, and other food to the cart,  I pondered what it must feel like to be without legs, unable to stand in a shower, unable to drive a car, unable to work, unable to shop for groceries. I also recalled a period in my life when, in 2002, shortly after my marriage ended, I lost a good job, was unable to find another before my Employment Insurance ran out,  having to work for $12 an hour as a courier to survive. I had no money in my pockets or the bank to purchase anything, other than food, shelter, the odd piece of clothing. There was no “hand out” from friends or family. If only someone had come to my aid, helped me, life would have been much simpler.  For more than 18 months, I lived a life of “quiet desperation, ” much like the life of this handicapped man, who was relying on the assistance of others.

After paying the cashier, I ventured out with two bags of groceries, lumbered toward the man, who was still sitting in a wheelchair, clearly unable to live a normal life,  one that most people take for granted. Moving closer, I witnessed two more strangers ignore his request for pocket change as they entered the grocery store.

Standing in front of him, I put down my bags of groceries, pulled out all of my change, handing him two loonies. He thanked me, and I felt better for assisting him. Then picked up the bags and trekked to my Chevy, and placed the bags in the trunk.

Driving home, I pondered what I’d just witnessed. What troubled me about the incident, one that I’m sure goes on everywhere in Toronto, the country, and the world, is this: why did so many strangers, capable of assisting this handicapped man in a wheel chair, with a small amount of their pocket change, ignore his request? Did they have no compassion? Did they believe he was undeserving?

Perhaps, they had no change, or they judged him to be feigning misery.


About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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